The Bruins won the Stanley Cup the old-fashioned way – they earned it. In this series, Claude Julien’s team gave a total team effort. I don’t know if there was a single Bruins player who didn’t contribute to this victory. As the series progressed, the Bruins seemed to get better.
In Game 7, they finally were able to pack their home-ice game and bring it on the road. They were strong in all three zones. Over the course of the seven games, they were able to break down the Canucks.
Goaltender Tim Thomas, who became just the second American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, was spectacular for the Bruins. He gave them confidence at every turn, while leaving the Canucks scratching their collective heads.
It was a strange series for sure. Here are a few thoughts about Game 7.
*Dennis Seidenberg came up huge in this decisive game. Defensively, the German-born defenseman made two sprawling plays in the high slot to help stop great scoring opportunities.
Less than five minutes into the opening period, with Henrik Sedin on his forehand moving right to left cross the slot, Seidenberg slid into his shooting lane forcing him to hold the puck and carry it into a less dangerous area. Seidenberg’s play really helped goalie Tim Thomas, who was able to take care of business.
Later, near the halfway mark of the second period, Canucks winger Alex Burrows found the puck on his stick in the slot. He wanted to shoot, but Seidenberg again came sliding into the shooting lane. Burrows held the puck, moving further toward the right wing side of the ice. He eventually found a lane to shoot, but Seidenberg’s play allowed his D partner Zdeno Chara to get in front of the net. Burrows shot hit Chara’s left knee and caromed harmlessly to the corner.
At the other end of the rink, Seidenberg picked up a pair of assists and he finished with a plus-2 rating, working a team-high 28:51. It was a brilliant performance in the biggest of games, working against the opponents’ top players. That’s really good stuff. He finished with four hits and two blocked shots.
*I thought the "let 'em play" officiating approach of referees Stephen Walkom and Dan O’Halloran favored Boston for a couple of reasons.
First, the Bruins are a terrific five-on-five team. The B's five-on-five goals for/goals against ratio was a playoff-best 1.76 going into Game 7. That was significantly better than Vancouver’s 0.92, which ranked them ninth among the 16 playoff teams. In the regular season, the Bruins led the league with 1.40 ratio, while the Canucks ranked second at 1.32. That tells me the Bruins have taken their even-strength game to another level, while the Canucks’ five-on-five game has gone the other way.
Second, the even-strength play allowed Boston head coach Claude Julien to roll his four lines without having to worry about special teams play. He took full advantage of that in the first period. Energy fourth-liners Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille received multiple shifts. Those guys are a big part of the Bruins’ team game. When Julien can’t get them even-strength minutes, the Bruins can get out of sync.
In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final against the Lightning, the Bruins benefitted from a similarly called game by the duo of Walkom-O’Halloran. In that game, you remember, no penalties were called.
*I thought NBC analyst/regular NHL Live guest Eddie Olczyk made a great point about Daniel Sedin’s weak play in the face-off circle. On the defensive zone draw that led to the game’s first goal, Daniel Sedin allowed Marchand a free release off the puck drop.
In the second period, on another defensive zone draw, Daniel Sedin allowed Gregory Campbell do the same thing. The Bruins ended up getting a scoring chance.
In any game, little things like that can mean a lot. In a decisive game, they can mean everything.
*How good were Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand? The answer: really, really good!
They each had two goals and they were a force on the ice all night long. Marchand had terrific jump in his stride throughout the night. His speed was a difference maker throughout the series.
Bergeron, meanwhile, scored a back-breaking, short-handed goal late in the second period. He had five hits, four shots and he finished with a plus-4 rating. These two guys were the catalysts for the Bruins in this Cup-winning victory.